Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

Going down the Rabbit hole

The readings provided for this week provide views on the usefulness and limitations of online sources, as reprints of the original source material. Amy Earhart speaks about the importance of race and gender in the humanities, and how the digitization allows for a wider access of their information hypothetically. So long as the programming does not exclude the minority groups it can serve to preserve and share different cultures.

TheAhmed Baba Institute archive from the Ahmed Baba institute is evidence of this preservation of cultural history. An interesting note about the institute which has a South African backing(hence my liking it), it preserves and goes over some Islamic texts. Other than translating and uploading some texts for people to see, it is especially interesting to me personally, as a historian, most Greek writing and what we know about ancient Greeks and Romans comes from the writings of Islamic Scholars. Which is an example of how humanities serves to preserve different cultures, in this case even more than just the intended group.

McGann, writes about the importance of understanding the limitations of digital archives. As a student currently doing my senior capstone here at pacific I can speak first hand to the limitations to using only online digital collections. These collections in reality are just the first step for a researcher. It shows them if the archive will have sources they may potentially want to udavid_socratesse. The best example of this I think can be seen in a museum example. The image here is the “Death of Socrates” a famous painting in the MET. It is by far one of my favourite pieces of art but the digital image of it is nothing in comparison to being in front of it. So as the title of this post goes, the digital archives serve really as the Rabbit hole. It is an opening into expanding ones field of view so that a  person can focus in on that which interests them and speaks to them. As such is works as a tool, to aid in the spread of ideas and knowledge for society as a whole. Well society that has open internet access and is able to access files, but that is a different topic.


  1. I really like how you compared digital archives to a rabbit hole, because I feel it is a very concise way of putting how I’ve felt about my own research for a while. Whether it be exploring Wikipedia and just clicking through random links for hours on end, or finding subjects that interest me to go out and purchase physical books to continue my research, digital archives are just the shallow end of a pool of knowledge. I also enjoy the point you brought up of “how humanities serves to preserve different cultures” because I find it really interesting to think about what we would know about different cultures if historians only preserved their own culture, what would become of the cultures who had no historian?

  2. I enjoyed your post a lot because I also believe that the traditional learnings are the best method to produce quality research results. Although digital archives enable individuals to search materials in a large database on the Internet, they do not enable people to examine scholastic articles, documents and books closely. For example, printed readings tend to allow people develop more thorough understandings about texts than digital readings do. A lot of digital devices also do not have a built-in annotation function which means people will not be able to take notes and analyze ideas that they find interesting. Although digital readings are a quite innovative way in reading on buses, airplanes and trains, I also agree that they may not benefit researchers.

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